5/23/11 ** I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in an escapist sort of way. It definitely has a "Kick-Ass Female Heroine" (though whoever named that list needs a grammar lesson on redundancy and the use of precise vocabulary).
Mary "Jacky" Faber is orphaned at 8 in 1797 in London. After running with a gang for several years, she is taken on a Royal Navy ship as a ship's boy - selected from among the others on the dock because she can read. The remainder of the book focuses on her adventures chasing pirates on the north coast of Africa, her difficulties with maintaining The Great Deception as she enters adolescence, and the ensuing difficulties when she and another ship's boy become attracted to each other. Meyer deftly handles the homophobia that was present on the ship and the ways in which such intolerance impacted Jacky and the other characters.
Because the book is written in a Cockney dialect, I had fun trying to read parts of it aloud to myself and imagined reading the first few chapters to my fourth graders. Though I would never actually read a book aloud that I hadn't read all the way through, I'm glad I didn't get sucked into breaking my own rule on this one. As Jacky gets older, she begins to face the typical female changes. Since she'd been orphaned at 8, no one had ever explained the monthly period or other mysteries of being female. There are several chapters where she believes that she's been taken by a mysterious plague - I can't quite imagine reading those parts aloud in mixed company! Likewise, she goes to a brothel to learn about "women's ways!"
4/17/2011 ** Someone else on GR posted this as 'to read.' It has an overall rating of 4.92 - wow! I've requested it.